This week our focus was the ongoing story of Town Council’s decision to drop, re-visit and then ultimately approve a one-time $500 rate reduction at the town’s landfill so an enormous amount of steel can be disposed of locally.
This steel comes from the Tuktoyaktuk Exploration Logistics Base Camp (aka Tuk Base.) It was found by surprise after remediation excavation began. Items considered hazardous waste, such as contaminated water or soil, are destined for further south, likely Alberta or British Columbia. The steel is not considered hazardous.
Now that we’re at the end, this appears to be a fairly benign arrangement. In this case, the catalyst for the deal is ExxonMobil, who through their trade name Esso are on the line for environmental damage caused to Tuk Base throughout their lease owned by their property Imperial Oil, which expires in 2024.
They need the job done and going over budget is apparently out of the question, so their contractors in this process, in this case EGT Northwind — which is a separate entity from Northwind Industries Ltd and E. Gruben’s Transportation Ltd — proposed a reduction in landfill dumping rates to stay within the contract’s budget. As Northwind vice president Fred Bailey explained, the idea was proposed by ExxonMobil to approach the town, because if they are working within a local jurisdiction’s rules they don’t have to follow their own theoretically far-more-stringent regulations.
It goes without saying this one took a bit of homework to figure out. I can empathize with councillors and citizens alike who looked at this deal at face value and recoiled. There is a lot of uncertainty in the initial explanation and it appears the whole thing was planned out with the expectation no one would have any questions at all — which was the opposite of what happened.
An idiom kept getting thrown around in the debate; “Half of something is better than 100 per cent of nothing.”
Which is true, but I think this whole situation would have progressed a lot smoother if it didn’t take several council meetings to get all the information. Poor communication is at the heart of why this became a story in the first place. When something looks suspicious, even if it actually isn’t, people get curious. Especially people who get paid to be on top of what’s going on.
In the end, I think it was the right decision of council to let the deal go through — for the people whose jobs are depending on work previously planned, exactly how much of a cut the town or ExxonMobil make is all a moot point.
They were told this work was going to happen, planned their lives around it and they and their families really don’t deserve to get thrown under the bus because of poor communication they had nothing to do with.
But in the future, it would be pragmatic for those wanting flexibility in rates to give 100 per cent of the plan up front, instead of simply half of something.